One of the biggest challenges in implementing a content marketing strategy is figuring out who is going to produce all that wonderful content. Even if your team contains a slew of great writers, you may find that it makes more sense to outsource at least some of the writing for your website.
But if you’ve never hired a professional writer, the process might seem daunting. I’ve hired dozens of writers and editors over the course of my career, with a strong track record for spotting talent. Here are my six basic steps for hiring a great freelance writer for your team.
- Use the right terms to describe the work. Publishing professionals have their own jargon, including the terms they use to identify their various sub-specialties. Copywriters, for example, are experts in promotional writing. They are great at creating landing pages and crafting your calls to action. They may be less competent at the storytelling or informative writing you need for your blog or white papers. Practicing print or online journalists can be great at the latter, but they may not be fully comfortable with the commercial slant of content marketing. Writing for broadcast also calls for a different skillset. (Check out our Content Marketing Glossary for definitions of common terms.)
- Advertise the job intelligently. In recent years, a number of sites have cropped up that promise to connect people with tens of thousands of writers — many of whom are willing to churn out SEO copy for pennies per word. That variety and price may seem appealing, but remember that you get what you pay for. True professional writers don’t rely on such sites to connect with clients. If you value your brand, you’re much better off using LinkedIn, Monster — or hell, Craigslist — to find a writer than one of these content mills.
- Request “clips.” An experienced professional writer will have a stack of “clips,” or examples of their work, to share at your request. Review them closely to get a feel for his style, as well as depth of expertise. The latter is especially important for b2b content, which can be highly technical.
- Check references. A thick stack of great clips can conceal sloppy work habits. Perhaps the writer had a really great editor who spent years cleaning up behind them? Maybe she only produced one or two works for each client before their behavior problems lead to a tense goodbye. Your best shot at uncovering those kinds of issues is by speaking directly with previous clients.
- Consider testing them. This practice might seem unusual to people in other professions, but it’s the norm for professional writers and editors to take a test to demonstrate their skills. Have them write a brief sample article under timed conditions — ideally something similar to the content they would be producing for you. If your test requires more than a half hour, I strongly suggest that you pay them for their time.
- Write a proper contract. You’re hiring someone to produce creative work on your behalf. You need a contract that spells out copyright agreements, as well as a number of other things your standard contractor form probably doesn’t address. You can find plenty of examples online, but if you grab one of those, you’ll want to have your lawyer review it to make sure it meets the requirements of your state and your specific needs.
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